Friday, April 23, 2010

Price Tags and Hair Elastics

Jonah is a collector at heart.

Early-on, he was the recipient of some heavy-handed influence from his live-in great-grandmother. Her list of collections is almost too long and obscure to count: it includes mass amounts of frog paraphernalia, carved wood, beads-never-strung, books about mushrooms, ceramic molds, and boxes --multiple boxes-- of rocks. So I suppose its safe to say Jonah comes by it honestly.

When I was a kid, I recall feeling passionate about a couple collections, the most important being my erasers. Not just any erasers, but those of the novelty variety. I saved my allowance to hit up the Hello Kitty store whenever possible to add to my collection. They were never, EVER used -- they were for viewing purposes ONLY. I remember spending many after-school hours at Molly Carollo's house going through our respective eraser collections (and smelling her hamsters, but that's another story). Totally awesome. I actually found a few eraser survivors when I packed up my life and moved in with Tyler, but they have since been gnawed and eaten by the monsters I call my children (because what else would you DO with a pretty, heart shaped eraser?).

But back to Jonah's collections --

A couple years ago I started finding pieces of clothing price tags in Jonah's room. Apparently, the perforated strip at the bottom of the tag containing the purchase price was the best (and most coveted) part of the tag, so he began saving them. There were constantly confetti piles of those little tag strips littering his bedroom floor. If I removed and threw away a tag from a new piece of clothing without his knowledge, he'd eventually find it (because my child likes to root through the garbage can. Doesn't yours?) and give me the stink eye for trying to thwart his elevated interests. But it gets worse. Soon I started noticing that he'd get really quiet and momentarily slip away while we were at the clothing store. It took a few store visits and a few pockets full of price tag strips discovered pre-laundry to realize he was combing through the clothing racks and actually removing the tags to add to his collection. Not exactly criminal activity, but still strangely compulsive. I explained that if he continued to remove that part of the tags on unpurchased items, no one would ever know how much the item cost, and it would make it really difficult to shop. It became ritual for me to remind Jonah of what NOT to do before we went shopping ("No screaming, no hugging kids you don't know, no crawling under the dressing room stalls, and NO price tag removal!"). It must be one important collection, though, because he then took to scouring the store floor for tags that had already fallen off. Who's that kid crawling on the concrete floor underneath the tankini rack picking up stray price tags and shoving them into his pocket? Oh yeah. That's MY kid.

And then I began noticing that my hair elastics kept disappearing. I couldn't find any sensible reason for the disappearance. Its not like I was taking them out of my hair and absent-mindedly shooting them across the room. A hair elastic should last for a reasonable amount of time. But every morning, I kept finding myself reaching for a new one because the previous day's elastic was MIA. It made no sense, until I watched Jonah clean the bathroom one day. While clearing off the counter top, he quickly grabbed an errant elastic and stuck it in his pocket. A few days later, I saw him do the same thing while brushing his teeth. And when I went in to dust his bureau, it all made sense. Sitting on the dresser was a pile of hair elastics. I asked him why all my elastics were sitting there, and he responded quite innocently, "Its my collection, Mom."

So the question is, is he a budding collector, or a kleptomaniac? I suppose it could go either way. In his defense, he hasn't shown much interest in those collections lately. His sights have moved on to marbles and leftover pieces of mesh-mosaic tile (clearly the child of a never-ending renovation). This afternoon as we were going through toys and packing up books in preparation for the D Street move, we came across an old pile of price tags and hair elastics. I told him they were all going in the trash. He froze in terror for a moment until I assured him there would be an opportunity to collect more in the future should he determine that was necessary.

He relented with little anguish.

I guess that phase is over.


One less thing to add to the list of "Things to discuss with a Child Psychologist"...

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